TORONTO, Ont.—Seven years ago, a 17-year-old Samuel Piette was on the sidelines at BMO Field getting ready make his international debut.
In just his second men’s national team camp, Piette was being substituted into a friendly match against rival United States on June 3, 2012, replacing his mentor Julian De Guzman in the 86th minute.
“To have [Clint] Dempsey in front of me, [Michael] Bradley, it felt like I was in a commercial and it wasn’t real,” Piette told Waking the Red on a media call earlier today.
Stephen Hart, now with the Canadian Premier League’s Halifax Wanderers, was coaching Canada that day. Will Johnson was the only current Canadian men’s national team player on the field, while John Herdman was a month away from the moment that made him a national icon: leading Canada’s women to a bronze medal at the London Olympics.
It’s fair to say almost everything has changed for the Canadian men’s national team in those seven years. As they get set to face the United States again at BMO Field on Tuesday, Canada will be hoping for a new result as well. It has been 34 years since Canada won a full senior national team game against the United States.
Toronto! @AlphonsoDavies @KMillz_00 and @steph_eustaquio will be making an appearance at #CANMNT Fan Rally on Friday night at the @TheRecRoom. Join @FootyTalksLive and @theVoyaguers at #CANMNT HQ in preparation for the crucial match.— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) October 9, 2019
RSVP here: https://t.co/85u8ltsSlr pic.twitter.com/XSXo0VuE06
This one would mean more than most, however. With critical Concacaf ranking points on the line, not to mention their Nations League group, this match will go a long way towards determining Canada’s path to the 2022 World Cup.
“It has been a long time since we’ve played a competitive game like this that means so much for us (the player), for the association and for the fans,” said Piette.
Canada certainly has a team capable of making it happen. One of the biggest contrasts Piette, now 24, mentioned between that 2012 group and the current side is the age and high level at which many players ply their trade.
This camp has seen yet another such player join the fold as 22-year-old midfielder Stephen Eustaquio of Cruz Azul is making his debut in a national team camp after recovering from a serious ACL injury. Piette says Eustaquio has adapted to the team quickly off the field, and is looking forward to seeing more of what he can bring on it.
“We need the best players to compete against the best teams and he’s one of them,” the Montreal Impact midfielder said, referring to Eustaquio.
"The day I switched my international status from Portugal to Canada was the same day I tore my ACL."— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) October 10, 2019
Cruz Azul midfielder Stephen Eustaquio takes us inside his remarkable recovery and his road to making his #CANMNT debut in Toronto. pic.twitter.com/bjTD8Vg3Mi
As far as best teams go, the Americans haven’t been in a particular great run of form of late. But there’s no doubt Canada sees the team as one of the biggest obstacles when it comes it accomplishing its goals. More than that, it’s a rivalry that transcends the sport.
“The hate that we have towards the Americans is just natural — even if you don’t like soccer or anything,” added Piette.
With that in mind, Piette recognizes that this game is a clear chance for Canada to put itself on the map. That isn’t just the case in Concacaf, or in traditional soccer circles, although it will certainly make noise in both. It is the kind of game that can peek the interest of the country in general.
“If we get a good result, the country will be behind us,” wrapped up the Canadian.
In that sense, if Piette’s first game against the United States felt like he was playing in a commercial, Tuesday’s game has the chance to actually be one. If Canada can beat the United States, it would be a massive advertisement for how far the team has come and the potential they have to go even further in the coming years.